Page:Melbourne and Mars.djvu/25

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23
SCHOOL DAYS.

sign having its sound and each sound its sign, none being interchangable or liable to modification by preceding or succeeding ones. It seemed as if in everything the knowledge was allowed to grow in us and compelled to become part of us. We had to work out all that we learned. When we had learned how to measure a square we had to measure it on the boards or in the school field. As a child in dreamlife this appears natural. It is only when I compare my dream education with the one I should get if I were again an infant in waking life that I perceive the immense advantage of my dream life mode of receiving instruction."

Evidently our diarist has got into some Utopia. Reformers have tried to alter our written language and to make education easier tor children, but in no part of the world have these results been so fully accomplished as in this land. The children are not quite angels even here, for in Hildreth's class punishment has to be inflicted. He writes:—"One day, when I had learned to make several kinds of buildings out of my box of various-shaped blocks, I took a fancy to erect a larger building, and for this purpose I took several of my neighbour's blocks when his attention was turned away. Hildreth was not long in seeing my trick and coming to the rescue. I knew I had done wrong, and felt very guilty, but cannot recollect being afraid. So far I had never wittingly done wrong, and had never seen anyone suffer punishment. I began to put back the blocks I had borrowed. When I took them I had no intention of keeping them, so that my crime was borrowing without leave, not actual theft.

Hildreth did not ask me if I had taken any blocks; she simply told me to put those I bad taken into a certain separate heap. This done, she called the whole class and pointed out what I had done. I felt very much ashamed, and began to cry, so did Frank, my victim, and several others.

The class-mother—for that was what we called her—then asked us to tell her the kind of fault I was guilty of. My peers were not accustomed to crimes, and could come to no definite conclusion. Hildreth helped them to come to the conclusion that I had been guilty of selfishness, and that I had acted in a greedy manner by taking the blocks without asking for them. She did not call my action a crime; that in itself would have been too great a punishment. I was already more an object of pity than of anger.

My fault had to be punished, and the class had to devise my punishment. Not one suggested the infliction of any kind of physical pain. Indeed, I had never heard of pain at this time as inflicted by one person upon another. One said 'take his blocks from him.' Another, a sharp-eyed little girl, the least in the class, said 'No; let us give him plenty of blocks; he can have all mine.' 'And mine,' 'and mine,' run round the class. Hildreth consented, and in another minute I had more than twenty boxes of blocks. The class work went on another hour, and I felt very miserable. My sudden accession of wealth was a most painful experience. I did not want to play